The pending world record elk, shot in Utah in September, is raising eyebrows for its huge size as well as concerns for the direction of trophy hunting.
Known as the "spider bull," the elk taken in Utah's Monroe Mountain unit -- one of the state's most coveted trophy units -- had a green score of just over 500 points of antler mass on the Boone & Crockett scale.
The bull was killed by Ammon, Idaho, hunter Denny Austad, who invested nearly $170,000 in a Utah Governor's tag, which allows the holder to hunt with any weapon in any open unit in the state.
A Washington state record bull elk was taken in the Blue Mountains in September by a hunter who paid $65,000 for the Governor's tag.
States auction these special tags in fundraisers for elk management.
"The Spider Bull represents a troubling trend," said Andrew McKean, hunting editor for Outdoor Life magazine.
Wildlife is becoming commercialized in high-bid auctions and programs that give landowners and outfitters rights to sell tags for hunting trophies on their property, McKean said in his blog on the magazine's website.
"Austad had the help of a profit-minded outfitter and a heap of payrolled guides," he said, suggesting that the record books should make these distinctions. "I will argue until I die that his achievement is less remarkable than a do-it-yourself hunter who invests a season hunting hard."